Color, 1970, 93 mins.57 secs.
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Starring Carroll Baker, Jean Sorel, Luis Dávila, Alberto Dalbés, Marina Coffa
88 Films (Blu-ray) (UK R0 HD), X-Rated Kult (Blu-ray) (Germany RB HD) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)


Get Paranoiaready to be thoroughly confused. In 1967, ParanoiaAmerican star Carroll Baker made an abrupt career shift following soapy, glitzy Hollywood productions like The Carpetbaggers and Harlow to jet off to Italy where he started appearing in a string of sex films starting off with Marco Ferreri's The Harem. She scored a significant international hit with her next Italian feature, 1968's The Sweet Body of Deborah, which paired her up with French heartthrob Jean Sorel and really kicked in the elegant cosmopolitan giallo that would remain the standard for a couple of years until Dario Argento upended all of it in 1970. Later in '68, director Umberto Lenzi dove into the giallo pool with his first effort, Orgasmo, which starred Baker and also got very wide international distribution. The American distributor decided that title was way too much for U.S. audiences, so they retitled it Paranoia, added some extra nudie outtakes to earn an early X rating, and lopped out a climactic twist in the story. That one was a hit, too, so Lenzi and Baker teamed up again for 1969's So Sweet... So Perverse and a 1970 film called... Paranoia, at least in Europe. On top of that it brought Baker and Sorel back together and reused a key song from Orgasmo, "Just Tell Me," so for the American release, they did their best to distinguish this new film by calling it A Quiet Place to Kill. Apparently determined to wreak as much havoc as possible, Lenzi followed it up with a non-Baker giallo, An Ideal Place to Kill, which had a role originally written for Baker (ultimately played by Irene Papas) and basically retold the story of Orgasmo from the two counterculture kids' point of view. Then Lenzi brought back Baker one last time for Paranoiaanother giallo, Knife of Ice, which Paranoiathankfully didn't have the words Paranoia or Place in the title.

Now that you've got all that, the film under discussion here is the film known as Paranoia in Europe, or A Quiet Place to Kill, which is a fine, sparkling thriller with Baker and Sorel managing to recapture the spark of their previous work together. Here Baker is Helen, a race car driver who suffers a significant crash on the racetrack. She's invited by Susan (Coffa) to stay at a swanky Mediterranean beach-side home, but Susan happens to be married to Helen's ex, Maurice (Sorel), who may or may not have been an abusive brute depending on how much we can take Helen's flashbacks at face value. As it turns out, Susan can't stand Maurice either and wants him out of the picture-- but she can only do it with Helen's help. Of course, that turns out to be just the beginning of a twisty plot loaded with double crosses and whiplash turns.

Like Lenzi's other early gialli, this one has Diabolique written all over it but really works best as a sumptuous European cinematic getaway with beautiful stars doing indulgent things day and night by the sea. Baker and Sorel still make for a magnetic pair, of course, and this time out the Spanish co-financing is far more obvious thanks to virtually the entire supporting cast (plus a juicy role for Argentinian Luis Dávila just after Eagles Over London) and a fun, loungy score by Gregorio ParanoiaGarcía Segura complete with the obligatory theme song, in this case "You" performed by Canadian singer-actress Shirley Harmer. It's worth noting that this opened shortly Paranoiabefore Sergio Martino's first giallo, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, which feels very much like an evolution of the Lenzi cycle with the sex and violence amped up a bit to keep up with the times. Interestingly, this one also features way more exposure of Ms. Baker than the more famous, other Paranoia, though some audiences got prints with alternate clothed takes of a few shots in keeping with Spanish cinematic practice at the time.

Initially released on American VHS by Unicorn in a heavily cropped transfer (as A Quiet Place to Kill) that butchered the entire look of the film, Paranoia really needs to be seen at its full width for any kind of appreciation whatsoever. The first Blu-ray appeared in 2018 from X-Rated Kult in Germany, featuring the German and Italian tracks with optional German and English subtitle options. Unfortunately the absent English track is the preferable option as it maintains Baker's original vocal performance and fits the other actors' line readings, but at least it's English friendly in some way. The very expensive release also comes with a commentary by So Deadly, So Perverse author Troy Howarth.

In 2020, 88 Films brought the film to U.K. Blu-ray as a limited edition featuring a "soft touch" slipcase, reversible sleeve art, and an insert booklet with liner notes by Rachael Nisbet. Though the German version wasn't available for comparison, the 2.35:1 transfer here looks great Paranoiawith some wonderfully gaudy colors throughout (especially Paranoiathe wild cave party and nightclub sequences). The main presentation features the Italian titles and is the saucier version with all the nudity intact; audio options are English or Italian mono (DTS-HD MA) with optional English (translated) subtitles and both sound excellent. You also get a Howarth commentary here, but it isn't the same as the German one; in fact, he kicks things off by noting the importance of the English track and its absence on the prior Blu-ray. After that it's off to the races as he chats about the giallo conventions of the era, the more assertive nature of Baker's character here, Lenzi's place in the subgenre's history, the shared cinematic DNA with some of the British thrillers coming out around the same time, and the backgrounds of all the key players. In the featurette "Imperfect Crime" (14m50s), Lenzi chats about the film and his Baker movie cycle, noting that he stayed in touch with her for decades and going into the title confusion that plagues his work from this period. He also notes the location shooting in Palma de Mallorca and his dealings with the Spanish cast and crew as well as the construction of the story in an environment of wealth and corruption. Also included is an alternate opening title sequence (2m7s) without the negative effect seen in the final cut and a snippet (26s) of alternate clothed footage.

Reviewed on March 9, 2020